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Saturday, 13 February 2016

Year of the (Typewriter) Monkey

The Year of the Monkey began during International Typewriter Appreciation Month, so here's to all those typewriter appreciating monkeys ...
In the late 1920s, young aristocratic and upper class ladies prepared for their "coming out" by taking a secretarial course in London. They formed themselves into the "Monkey Club", the idea being "to broaden the horizons and skill base of debutantes upon their return from foreign finishing schools". The various lessons and activities ranged from house keeping and social work, to plumbing and typing.
Last week, closing his QI TV series, Stephen Fry paraphrased the old line about "1000 monkeys with typewriters" to "1000 monkeys with keyboards would produce the entire work of Shakespeare". Fry added, "It's been tried and failed."
The Monkey (猴) is the ninth of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese Zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. The Year of the Monkey is associated with the Earthly Branch symbol 申. 
A previous Year of the Monkey stretched from January 30, 1968, to February 16, 1969 (earthly branch Wu Shen), so it just, by two days, embraced the launch in Barcelona of the Olivetti Valentine portable typewriter, so beloved of monkeys ever since.
Happy Valentine's Day for tomorrow.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Yaddo! Typewriters Binding Books

This collection of Philip Roth works caught my eye as I flicked through the January issue of Vanity Fair, a publication which seldom features typewriters any longer and is therefore soon to lose my patronage.
The Fanfair page of Hot Gifts and Hot Type said "Juniper Books is producing custom literary collections, bespoke covers, books-by-the-foot and more".
The view from an Oliver
The nine-volume set of works by Roth is bound together by an image of the author at his Olivetti Lettera 32 portable typewriter, taken by Bob Peterson at the Yaddo artists' community in Saratoga Springs, New York, in early December 1968.
The Peterson photos were used in a lengthy feature article on Roth in the February 7, 1969, edition of LIFE magazine. The Juniper set includes Goodbye, Columbus, one of my favourite books of that era, and the self-indulgent Portnoy’s Complaint.
Here is the room Roth was working in:
Some other Juniper sets:
Truman Capote wrote his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, in the Tower Room at Yaddo in 1948:

Monday, 8 February 2016

X-Files, Waitangi Day, Super Bowl L and Will Aulick, the first Gonzo Sports Writer, who died 'In Harness' at his Typewriter

X-Files weird? No, what's weird is this bewigged young lady from Christchurch in New Zealand sitting in a bath while typing on an Underwood 5.
The Land of Oz dipped its collective straw lid to neighbouring New Zealand on the latter's national day, Waitangi Day, by screening the obligatory comic episode of The X-Files (Season 10), in which New Zealand actor Rhys Darby steals the show by taking the mickey out of the Australian accent in the lead role as Guy Mann, the Were-Monster, a walking, talking, blood-spitting horned lizard in white Y-fronts and a pronounced zipper up the back.
Guy Mann tells his far-fetched story to Fox Mulder while dressed in the same rumpled seersucker suit jacket, loosely knotted tie and battered straw hat with a red and black hatband that Carl Kolchak wore in The Night Stalker.
The show is in itself a back-hander, a sort of tribute to the late Darren McGavin's Kolchak: The Night Stalker, a 1974-75 ABC TV series in which Chicago-based Independent News Service reporter Carl Kolchak investigates X-Files-style supernatural events, paranormal phenomena, the occult and monsters like werewolves. This series inspired X-Files creator Chris Carter and continues to inform Mulder and Scully in so many ways. In episode three of Season 10, Guy Mann's dog is named after Daggoo, the huge African tribesman who is a Pequod harpooner in Herman Melville's Moby Dick.
10X3: Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster was written and directed by Darin Morgan and derived from an unfilmed script Morgan developed 10 years earlier for a 2005 revival of The Night Stalker. It includes the same mirror in a motel room, a port-a-potty, Dr Rumanovich, transgender prostitute, confrontation and confession in a graveyard and some sexual fantasy involving the central female character. Guy Mann gets to fulfil every red-blooded Antipodean male's moist dream of getting up close and very personal with a siren-like Dana Scully in a knee-trembler in the back corridors of an iPhone shop.
Pakuranga-born Rhys Darby, of Flight of the Conchords fame, is, like the Kolchak character in Night Stalker, is an inveterate user of the typewriter. Darby used what he described as a "state-of-the-art typewriter" to write his 2012 "autobiographical science fiction novel" This Way to Spaceship.
While Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster was showing on our TV screens, Australians were paying further Waitangi Day tribute to their Kiwi superiors, allowing New Zealand to give it the pip in winning back-to-back titles in the Sevens World Rugby Series. The mini All Blacks won the latest tournament, in Sydney, as they firmed in favouritism to take out the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero in August. The defending champion in Olympic Games rugby union is the United States, which beat France in the 15-a-side final in Paris in 1924 (New Zealand crunched the US in the seven-a-side quarter-finals in Sydney on Sunday). With Waitangi weekend winding on into Monday, the Kiwis rubbed further salt into this country's gaping wounds by beating Australia, a once-proud cricket nation, in a one-day series, thus retaining the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy.
Meanwhile, preparations were completed for the "world championship" in a distinctly oneristic code that started out (in the 1860s, before it was changed by a Camp bloke) as rugby union - Super Bowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. As I write, my friend Theodor Dampfknödel may well be crossing the fence on his annual pilgrimage to watch (if ever so briefly) the match at a neighbour's house.
The first Super Bowl I saw on TV was No 2, played on January 14, 1968, at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, between Green Bay Packers and Theodor's favourites, the Oakland Raiders (the Packers won 33–14). I couldn't work out what was going on then, and I still can't today. 
But looking at the way Super Bowls were covered back then says plenty to support the way in which Fox Mulder took the mickey out of modern technology in Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster. Yes, Christie E11 writing up Super Bowl XIII in 1979 is a spoof. This is how it was really covered:
And the New York Jets' "Broadway" Joe Namath being interviewed after Super Bowl II in 1970 reflects the sad fact that the skill and knowledge required for the written word, in writing the word picture, was already being succeeded by the slim value of the spoken word, the quick post-match quote upon which to build a story:
Yet that peculiar "American sports language", the much cherished, coded hieroglyphics of football and baseball, still held firm:
By Broadway Joe's time, this strange shorthand speak had been around for more than 60 years. It was started by the man who in 1907-12 "set a new style" in US sports writing - becoming, as it were, the first gonzo journalist. He was William Wrothe Aulick, are here are two random selections from his baseball coverage in The New York Times:
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The New York Times reported that Aulick died "in harness" at his typewriter on Christmas Day 1913. As a child he was Willie and he later called himself Will Aulick, or sometimes Bill. He was often vague about his place of origin, but was actually born in Richmond, Virginia, in January 1873. 
His second wife, Letitia Fraser Aulick, died in 1964, aged 85. His daughter, June Letitia Aulick (right), told friends she was born with printer’s ink in her blood. In a long and varied writing career, June was once a Hollywood publicist for the movie version of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and was society editor for the New York World Telegram, operating between Palm Beach and Southampton. She died, aged 98, on June 2, 2005. June was also editor of the World Trade Academy Press and the Chelsea Clinton News and often dined with Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. A familiar figure as she strolled the streets of Chelsea dressed in a flowing gown or a tailored suit, wearing a large hat and carrying a long walking staff topped by an artificial flower that was changed with the seasons, she founded the Chelsea West 200 Block Association and The Shanghai Tiffin Club.